Incompetent or Delusional? You Decide!

Gershom Gorenberg

In my latest American Prospect column, I show that the Republican candidates for president are either incompetent or delusional in their grasp of world affairs. But which is it: The World According to GOPAre they D students, or do they live in an alternate universe? And which one’s delusions put him the most parsecs from Earth? You, the readers, can decide!

If there’s anything that can produce more anxiety than watching the Republicans pick a presidential candidate, it’s watching the process from Israel.

Yes, I know that the Republican candidates—well, except for Ron Paul—all love Israel. Newt Gingrich is still in the race because of the cash his super PAC got from casino mogul Sheldon Adelson, whose other political investments include financing an Israeli newspaper that exists to promote Benjamin Netanyahu. Rick Santorum has just been endorsed by the high council of theocons, who are sure they understand Israel’s importance better than the Jews do. Mitt Romney’s foreign-policy platform restates—in more polite but equally counterfactual terms—his accusation of last year that “President Obama has thrown Israel under the bus.”

This is exactly what makes me nervous. These candidates would love Israel to death. What’s scary is not just that any Republican from the class of ’12 is likely to replace Barack Obama’s uneven support for Israeli-Palestinian peace with the George W. Bush-style malignant neglect. It’s not just that the Middle East as a whole is downstream from America: Our region gets swamped by the mistakes made in Washington. What’s really scary is that the way that Republicans—including Ron Paul—talk and act about Israel shows that their grasp of world affairs ranges between incompetent and delusional.

Let’s start with Santorum’s statement—video-recorded at an Iowa campaign event—that “all the people who live in the West Bank are Israelis. They’re not Palestinians. There is no Palestinian.” It’s worth watching how Santorum reaches this remarkable conclusion. The West Bank, he says, is part of Israel, just as New Mexico is part of the United States. “It was ground that was gained during war,” he says. Challenged that it might make a difference that the “annexation” was recent, the candidate insists, “No, it doesn’t matter. … It is legitimately Israeli country.” And since the land is Israel’s, he infers, everyone living on it is an Israeli. Presto, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict evaporates.

As a Washington Post fact-checker has noted, Santorum staked out a position more extreme than the official Israeli stance. After conquering the West Bank in 1967, Israel did annex East Jerusalem (a move that no other country has recognized). But the Israeli Foreign Ministry describes the rest of the West Bank as “disputed” territory, not as part of Israel. The explicit reason that even hawkish Israeli politicians haven’t followed through on their desire to annex the West Bank is that they don’t want to offer citizenship to its Palestinian residents.

But Santorum isn’t just ignorant of the positions of his supposed ally. He doesn’t know that it does matter when a country gained ground in war. Post-World War II international law, anchored in the U.N. Charter, bans expansion through conquest. Resolution 242, the Security Council’s November 1967 decision on the Arab-Israeli conflict, refers explicitly to “the inadmissibility of the acquisition of territory by war.” The man who would conduct America’s foreign policy hasn’t heard about this.

Worse, he doesn’t know the difference between nationality and citizenship. He has missed the whole concept of ethnic nationalism—of people who share a language and a culture, regard themselves as a national community and want self-determination. For Santorum, someone who has Israeli citizenship can’t be a Palestinian. By the same logic, there are no Kurds, and no Kurdish question in Turkey, Iraq, or Syria. The Basques have vanished. The conflict between Greek and Turkish Cypriots is beyond comprehension in Santorum’s world. …

Read the rest at the American Prospect; comment there or come back to SoJo to vote.

4 thoughts on “Incompetent or Delusional? You Decide!”

  1. It’s obvious Santorum wants us to accept his conclusions without thinking through his examples. Perhaps that’s one reason Republicans are adverse to science and peer review! 😉

    In New Mexico, the legal status progressed from “military occupation” in 1848 to civil territory to statehood in 1912. Residents of the conquered territory were given the option of U.S. or Mexican citizenship. Mexican land titles were clarified either by upholding Spanish land grants or invalidating them. At that time, native tribes still had “protected nation” status. In 1924 the Indian Citizenship act was passed to grant citizenship.

    A combination of conquest and inclusiveness, a public policy seeking clarity in legal status to promote integration into the larger national union – these make the New Mexico example quite a bit different from the West Bank experience.

  2. Of course, the great international legal scholar, Gershom Gorenberg, mangles that “inadmissability” claim. Through ignorance or what some may presume is Zionist treachery, anyone’s guess.

    As anyone can find, Elihu Lauterpacht has drawn the distinction between unlawful territorial change by an aggressor and lawful territorial change in response to an aggressor. In drafting its preamble, the architects of Resolution 242 were referring to known international legal principles that precluded territorial modifications as a result of aggression. The preamble talks about “acquisition of territory by war.”

    The case of a war of self-defense in response to aggression is a very different matter. This distinction was further made by Stephen Schwebel, who would later become the legal advisor of the U.S. Department of State and then serve as President of the International Court of Justice at The Hague. The preamble of Resolution 242 was a compromise that took into account the other drafts that were before the Security Council, even though it did not really apply to Israel’s case. And by keeping it in the preamble and not in the operative parts of the resolution, the architects of Resolution 242 avoided creating any legal obligations for Israel that could be construed as precluding the resolution’s call for new “secure and recognized boundaries” beyond the earlier 1967 lines.

    And, after Resolution 242 was adopted, the Soviet deputy foreign minister, Vasily Kuznetsov, admitted: “There is certainly much leeway for different interpretations that retain for Israel the right to establish new boundaries and to withdraw its troops only so far as the lines it judges convenient.”

    One of many references:

  3. Yisrael:

    You (and the source you cite) claim:

    “The preamble of Resolution 242 was a compromise that took into account the other drafts that were before the Security Council, even though it did not really apply to Israel’s case. ”

    The primary drafter of Resolution 242, Lord Caradon, had a rather different view of the matter. He was adamant, both that the preamble was specifically designed for the case, and that it precluded Israel from claiming any land on the basis of her conquests in 1967. I quote:

    “Knowing as I did the unsatisfactory nature of the 1967 line I was not prepared to use wording in the Resolution which would have made that line permanent. Nevertheless it is necessary to say again that the overriding principle was the “inadmissibility of the acquisition of territory by war” and that meant that there could be no justification for annexation of territory on the Arab side of the 1967 line merely because it had been conquered in the 1967 war. ”

    Hence your carefully cherrypicked arguments fall at the first hurdle: the drafting of Resolution 242 itself. In general, while one can find some authorities (mostly old ones, like Prof. Lauterpacht) claiming that there is a meaningful legal distinction between the annexation of territory occupied in a defensive war and that occupied in a war of aggression, the MAINSTREAM view in international law is that there is no such distinction. For mainstream views I will cite a couple of examples from standard textbooks (I”ve quoted these before on this site):

    Lung-chu Chen, “An Introduction to Contemporary International Law” (2nd ed., New Haven, 2000), p.122:

    “Although a minority dissents, it is increasingly conceded that contemporary international law has no scope for the acquisition of territory through conquest or subjugation. It has been asserted that the acquisition of territory resulting from self-defense against an aggressor state is still permissible, since self-defense remains permissible. That argument, however, misconceives the scope of self-defense”.

    Martin Dixon, “Textbook on International Law” (6th ed., Oxford, 2007), p. 161:

    “Prior to 1945 … the use of force was perfectly lawful and title to territory acquired through conquest was quite common … From the moment aggressive force became unlawful it has been impossible for a state to acquire title to territory by conquest … In similar vein, it is clear that a state that exercises force in (alleged) self-defence is under a duty to return (or retreat from) any territory of the aggressor state which it has occupied … In such circumstances, although the initial use of force by the defending state would not have been in violation of the principles of international law embodied in the [U.N.] Charter, the subsequent retention of territory when the threat has passed would be unlawful.”

  4. I’m not schooled enough to jump into the fray above, but what disturbs me about Republican p0litics is something more insidious: Growing up, a Republican was a conservative who believed you should support the government, right or wrong. But no one brought God into it. Fast forward to 2012, and not only is God all over the place where He doesn’t belong, but in a sick twist, even those running for office are anti-government! Gives me a headache…

Comments are closed.